At Fresno County’s Academic Decathlon this past Saturday, students told me they enjoyed learning about the richness and depth of the history and culture of México and Latin América. They raved about Frida Kahlo’s paintings, Latin American music, and the birds of the Galapagos Islands. Many said they enjoyed learning more about their own heritage.
So imagine my surprise and confusion when I saw a sleeping Mexican scarecrow decorating the stage of the Clovis East High School gym. The scarecrow sat slouched against a podium, dressed in a checkered shirt and overalls, with a large sombrero covering its face and a colorful Mexican blanket across its body. (See photos below.)
A person might wonder…
- Is this how people demonstrate their newfound respect and knowledge for Latin American culture?
- What kind of message does this figure send to Fresno Unified School District students, 60.6 percent of who are Latino?
- Local schools are working hard to promote education for Latino students, and drop out rates are a huge concern…so why display a sleeping Mexican scarecrow at an event that promotes education and focuses on Latin América?
Other decorations and costumes at the Super Quiz were festive, without being offensive, as the figure was to one retired educator who saw a photo of it on Monday. The packed gym was decorated with cactus- and sombrero-shaped balloons. Contestants from Kerman High School wore fake flowers behind their ears and some Reedley High School students sported giant sombreros. Spectators chanted “Si Se Puede!” when their classmates answered a question correctly.
It would have been neat if the decorations had reflected what the students had learned – maybe Frida Kahlo paintings, scenes from the Galapagos, even the flags of the Latin American countries. But instead, somebody chose to decorate the gym with a stereotypical image – showing that even though students had gained new respect for Latin American history and culture, there is still much more to be learned.
I plan to talk with local leaders and school officials to get their opinions of this sleeping Mexican scarecrow. But tell me, what do you think of this figure? Do you think it was appropriate for a school event that focused on México and Latin América?